By Carlena Knight
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has signed a contract with Russian regulators to acquire the SputnikV vaccine.
This was revealed by Ambassador Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst during the post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday.
It was initially reported that officials in Russia and China had indicated their interest in supplying the country with vaccines. China will gift the government either the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccine while the Russian contribution was uncertain.
Hurst, who is also the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, shared that the country requested 100,000 doses of the vaccine but added that it was premature to determine if that will be the amount received. He did, however, give a timeline for when they will be received.
“It would be premature to determine in advance. We know how much we requested but to say that is the same number we will receive would be far-fetched. Our hope is that we can have those arriving some time within this month, that is March or early in April, and then we can then begin to invite those who did not receive any of the AstraZeneca to come forward for receipt,” Hurst said.
Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine gives around 92 percent protection against Covid-19, late-stage trial results published in The Lancet revealed.
The Sputnik vaccine works in a similar way to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab developed in the UK, and the Janssen vaccine developed in Belgium.
It uses a cold-type virus, engineered to be harmless, as a carrier to deliver a small fragment of the coronavirus to the body.
Safely exposing the body to part of the virus’s genetic code in this way allows it to recognise the threat and learn to fight it off, without risking becoming ill.
After being vaccinated, the body starts to produce antibodies specially tailored to the coronavirus.
But unlike other similar vaccines, the Sputnik jab uses two slightly different versions of the vaccine for the first and second dose – given 21 days apart.
They both target the coronavirus’s distinctive “spike”, but use different vectors – the neutralised virus that carries the spike to the body.
As well as Russia, the vaccine is being used in a number of other countries, including Barbados, Argentina, Venezuela, Hungary, and Iran.
Although the importation of these vaccines has been permitted, the use of them has not yet given approval by the local Pharmaceutical Council. Hurst says a decision should be made in short order.
He also mentioned that there is still an uncertainty on when the government will receive the first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which was paid for through the COVAX facility.
“There is no certainty; the COVAX on more than one occasion moved the date for delivery backwards and we are now told that they will deliver 14,400 some time before the end of this week or very early in next week, but no precise aircraft date of arrival has been fixed,” Hurst added.